The Washington Redskins did not believe their defense needed a completely new direction. They also weren’t going to find someone who could give it to them.
That’s why Greg Manusky will return as the defensive coordinator for a third season -- and also why the team remains vigilant on finding new ways to operate.
Do they still need changes? Yes. Improvement? Yes.
Whether they were going to hire another coordinator or just on fact-finding missions in recent weeks -- it certainly sends a strong signal one way when you’re talking to available coordinators -- the bottom line remains the same: They have to find a way to improve.
Even if the Redskins wanted to replace Manusky, it was a tough sell to the best available candidates. Their head coach, Jay Gruden, is entering Year 6 with one playoff appearance, three years ago; they have only around $20 million in cap room; and they have questions at quarterback. A potential hire would have to have confidence that the organization has the resources to build what is needed.
It's not a great look, no matter what they might be saying internally, to conduct fact-finding missions or interviews before announcing Manusky's return. If that were the plan all along, it should have been stated. The Redskins' front office has to hope that whatever it heard during those talks can help, whether it's with strategy or with its methods, such has how they practice.
The Redskins also will try to find a way to retain defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. He was still under contract with the San Francisco 49ers through this season, but that deal has expired. The Redskins want to keep him and are confident he’ll stick around. He has family in Florida, and the Redskins allow him the flexibility to go there often. Tomsula just has to decide if he wants to continue. (For what it's worth, assistant head coach/offensive line coach Bill Callahan remains under contract and, as of now, the Redskins expect him back too.)
While secondary coach Torrian Gray still might return, the Redskins clearly want more help with the back end. San Francisco just hired Joe Woods as a passing-game coordinator; the Redskins were interested in him, as well. They could create a similar role for someone else. That way, Manusky can focus on the base defense and the run game and someone else can concentrate on helping improve on third down. That was, by far, the biggest issue with the Redskins’ defense this past season. They ranked 29th in third-down defense; in the last nine games, they ranked last, allowing a staggering 49.1 percent of third downs to be converted.
Of course, when players read or hear about other possible coordinators being interviewed, you have to wonder about the impact. Does this lessen Manusky’s voice or respect? Realistically, every coach at Redskins Park has to view their situation as a one-year deal.
There certainly seemed to be a difference in how the front seven defensive players viewed the situation last season as opposed to the secondary. It's doubtful the front will stop heeding Manusky's words, even after these past couple of weeks, and it's equally doubtful the secondary is ready to embrace anything. In other words, not much has changed. That’s why the Redskins still need to bolster the coaching staff, while also adding a few more talented players.
Former Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger’s big complaint was that he wanted Manusky to listen to his input. Swearinger went about it in a way many did not like, but the overriding point is that the defensive backs did not have confidence in what they were being asked to do in coverage. Swearinger was not alone in that thinking. That must change. Otherwise, the frustration will remain, with or without Manusky around.
The best guess is that the Redskins will remain in a 3-4 base front. They do have personnel who can possibly switch to a 4-3, but if they keep Preston Smith around or sign a pass-rushing outside linebacker, the 3-4 makes the most sense. They have been focusing on drafting better talent to fit a 3-4 base, though they’re predominantly in a sub-package anyway.
Keeping Manusky won’t satisfy the Redskins' fan base, because this offseason, not a whole lot would. They are right to be upset about an organization that has produced only three playoff wins -- and a lot of frustration -- since their most recent Super Bowl triumph after the 1991 season. Now, they must figure out how they can provide reinforcements to a middle-of-the-pack defense that was capable of better. Otherwise, they’ll be looking for a lot more than a coordinator at this time next year.